OMAR ALI AL-ANSARI

Qatar 2020 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

The QRDI Council was established in 2018 as a new milestone in Qatar's efforts to further its national research, development and innovation (RDI) agenda.

Omar Ali Al-Ansari
BIOGRAPHY

Omar Ali Al-Ansari is the Secretary General of the QRDI Council. He leads Qatar's RDI transformation strategy and vision, engaging with critical stakeholders to build a strong and dynamic RDI ecosystem capable of addressing national imperatives and delivering significant economic and societal impact in Qatar. As an industrial and manufacturing engineer, Al-Ansari began his career in the oil and gas sector at ExxonMobil and continued in the manufacturing sector to support the development of Qatar's primary aluminum plant, Qatalum. He then transitioned to working on issues of national strategic importance.

Why is RDI so important, and why does Qatar need to focus on RDI?
First, a greater focus on RDI can offer significant economic gains and opportunities. Specifically, Qatar can boost the productivity of its existing industries and sectors, as better methods, new technologies, and ways of working are deployed. It can also develop new R&D intensive-sectors that not only help expand the country's export base but also create exciting job opportunities for a highly skilled national and expatriate workforce. Second, RDI is a key lever for solving social, environmental, and other national challenges to enhance people's quality of life, well-being, and security. A vibrant research community and innovative business sector would improve the knowledge and technology required to help address these challenges, which often call for breakthrough solutions. For Qatar, investments in RDI should aim to generate tailored solutions to the country's unique and pressing challenges. Finally, RDI can become an exciting platform in Qatar's ongoing global connectivity success story, similar to the connectivity platforms created by Qatar's oil and gas industry and the sports platform leading to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. As Qatar becomes a preferred location for international corporations and individuals to conduct RDI activities, the country's connectivity to the region and the world can deepen.

In your view, what makes a successful RDI ecosystem?
Mobility, namely of people, ideas, and capital. A mobile, dynamic, and fully integrated RDI ecosystem allows for the exchange of people and ideas across disciplines, industries, and sectors. To build a thriving RDI ecosystem, we need to facilitate interactions and coordinate RDI leadership across government, industry, and academia, thereby bridging gaps and creating much-needed linkages. We also need to have the right incentives in place to initiate or grow RDI activities across the public and private sectors so that ideas and solutions can be sourced from across the ecosystem. Finally, we must continue to make Qatar a friendly place to live and work as we attract and graduate the brightest minds. Mobility will allow RDI talent to find the right opportunities and the optimum spaces to think, grow, and apply their efforts in RDI.

How do you define RDI talent, and how does Qatar fare on this front?
Qatar's talent pool is, and will continue to be, a determining factor in its ability to grow, innovate, and impact local and global change. We define RDI talent as research scientists and engineers (RSEs) and other product development and innovation professionals with the right combination of skills, education, and attributes to support innovation. This includes product and industry managers, product designers and developers, entrepreneurs, and support professionals. Qatar can continue to build its talent pipeline, develop, attract, and retain qualified RSEs and further improve the regulatory environment to support innovation entrepreneurship in order to grow its RDI talent pool. Through the collaborative work of government, academia, and industry, Qatar can develop a stronger base of domestic and international RDI talent that drives research and innovation excellence in the country. The country's strategic location, global connectivity, and existing state-of-the-art research and education facilities highlight Qatar as an attractive destination for RDI talent.


Can you tell us more about the QRDI Council and the work undertaken so far?
Our council members have a wealth of knowledge across domains strategic to Qatar while also representing a cross-section of leadership from government, academia, and industry. The council composition is a good model for how initiatives and RDI activity can take place going forward. Over the last year, the council has undertaken a robust diagnostic process to understand the current RDI ecosystem and build insights on the way forward, engaging with more than 200 stakeholders, enlisting the support of international subject matter experts and specialized consultants, and analyzing and learning from other countries that are similar to Qatar, while reviewing existing RDI programs and initiatives in the country.